SustainabilityDespite good recycling rates, need for improvement in to-go packaging and e-commerce

Today, the German Federal Environment Agency published current figures on recycling rates for packaging waste from private end consumers in Germany. According to these figures, the quota targets for individual packaging materials set by the Packaging Act were met or exceeded on average for the year of 2020. For instance, compared to the legally required recycling quota of at least 50 percent for waste from the yellow garbage can, 50.5 percent of waste was in fact recycled.

At the same time, the German Federal Environment Agency emphasized the urgency of waste-avoiding reusable systems, through which disposable packaging for beverages and food (To Go), but also for deliveries, can be avoided.

These are further details:

  • In 2019, the following recycling rates were achieved for packaging from private end consumers: Paper/cardboard/cardboard: 90.6 percent (target: 85 percent), glass: 82.4 percent (target: 80 percent), aluminum: 107 percent* (target: 80 percent), beverage carton packaging: 76.0 percent (target: 75 percent), plastic packaging: 60.6 percent (target: 58.5 percent) and other composite packaging: 62.6 percent (target: 55 percent).
  • *Rates above 100 percent occur when non-packaging of the same material is disposed of incorrectly – i.e. when yellow plastic toys (plastic but not packaging) end up in the yellow bag.
  • However, the reusable share for beverage packaging, at 41.8 percent in 2019, is significantly below the legal target of 70 percent. Also, the volume of packaging increased by 18.1 percent between 2010 and 2019 for private and commercial final consumption.

In this context, the German Federal Environment Agency recommends companies to ecologically optimize their packaging assortments in terms of recyclability and used materials. Packaging that cannot be recycled well and is either unnecessary or could be replaced by reusable alternatives should disappear from the market.

Lilian Busse, Vice President of the German Federal Environment Agency, said: "In packaging design and disposal, the next few years will determine whether we succeed in the transformation to a true circular economy. We must reverse the trend in the continuing increase in packaging volumes. The avoidance and high-quality recycling of packaging material must become the norm in order to protect the climate and conserve resources. We need nothing more and nothing less than a fundamental reversal to reduce the volume of packaging waste in absolute terms."

Source: UBA

More information